Pubs and nuts and a desperate search for fun.
I ushered in the evening by ordering an alcohol-free beer. Andy caught my mistake just in time and the barman recommended two bottles of Cubanisto, a rum-flavoured lager with a cloying, perfumed taste. We stood shivering outside the Spread Eagle, downing the soapy swill as fast as our stomaches would allow. Not exactly our finest hour. But I didn’t worry. I knew the evening would soon blossom into a Mardi Gras of new friendships and surprise festivities. It always did.
We moved onwards through a series of underwhelming pubs: The Duke of York, Bonds, The Loop, Coach and Horses, The Guinea Grill, The Barley Mow, Henry Holland, The Lamb and Flag. Where were the eccentric characters, welcoming us into their world and buying us drinks? Where were the hilarious anecdotes, heartwarming stories and cautionary tales? Where were the wedding parties, drunken ageing flirts, young hoodlums, magicians, pathological liars and genuinely friendly souls that we usually encounter at every turn? It is my sad duty, dear reader, to report that even the most eventful moments of our Bond Street crawl were, alas, suicidally boring. I could mention the nuts we ordered in the Coach and Horses. They were satisfactory. Or the more exotic ‘Thai nuts’ we bravely sampled at the Barley Mow. Boy, what a zing! We crunched the evening away in salty disappointment.
The only establishment to rise above the parapet of mediocrity was The Loop, our third stop of the night. The Loop is a subterranean club in which thirty-somethings engage in curious mating rituals, bringing to mind our experience of Patch in Blackfriars. We amused ourselves watching a besuited trio edge ever closer to a pair of dancing girls who, unimpressed, attempted to hide behind our broad, muscular frames, and then – finding this hiding place inadequate – retreated deeper into the dark bowels of the building, still followed by the smart-dressed lechers. This, ladies and gentlemen, was the high point of our evening – witnessing the eternal, tragicomic waltz of Misplaced Dancefloor Libidinousness.
Perturbed by the utter non-event of Bond Street, we began hypothesising why this area delivered such an insipid night out. Mentally recalling our previous 23 crawls, it seemed to us that the nearer to London’s epicentre one travelled, the more consistently banal the drinkers became. Why should this be? We theorised that in Central London people generally work for large, corporate institutions and their careers demand constant ingratiation to their superiors and peers, leading to the formation of tight-knit circles of influence, at every level. This environment breeds the sort of safe, homogenous, uninteresting, inoffensive groups we found drinking in every Bond Street pub. Human potpourri, if you will. Whereas, those living further out are less money-driven and more individualistic, fearing no repercussions for expressing their true, glorious, weird, unique natures. It is in these outlying lands – Amersham, Acton Town, Becontree – that we have met the most memorable individuals and had the most bizarrely entertaining experiences.
But – perhaps we were just unlucky. Perhaps we hit Bond Street on a bad night. Perhaps it was us who were in bad humour and failed to spot the charm deftly hidden in the all-pervading blandness. But, if not, to the drinkers of Bond Street I say this: cast off the shackles of corporate conformity and live a little! Celebrate the diverse aspects of your personality, sing your own song, and make Bond Street (and your own lives) the more exciting and dynamic for it.
Don’t be potpourri, man. Be yourself.
Postscript: Providence wouldn’t allow us to end the night utterly crestfallen; we stumbled across our good friends Pip and Thom who restored our faith in humanity and treated us to a thoroughly diverting train journey home.
Next stop: BOROUGH